If we see ourselves as atoms that make us, our history becomes the history of the universe. Then, we were born in first stars as carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, and other light elements. If we identify ourselves with the molecules in our bodies, we are as old as the earth itself. We share our molecular history with the earth. We can insist that we are our genes or DNA. Yet, we share much of it with most of the species on the earth. Our human identity originated just a few thousand years ago in this cosmic journey spanning billions of years.
When we become highly identified with the newly acquired human form, we delude ourselves by thinking that we can “save the earth”. We happily ignore the right view: it is us, the human species, who need to be saved from our own misadventures on this planet. Earth has survived for billions of years and can survive for billions of years to come. Adding few poisonous gases into the atmosphere or pouring some harmful liquids into the oceans will not harm the earth: it will make us extinct.
This whole evolution of the universe was not a design to bring us to the scene. Things happened when conditions were conducive for them to happen and opening way for many new things to happen. One small piece missing in the chain of events, and the earth would be a dead planet. The origin of life on the earth was a beautiful accident. Yet, our extinction can be a planned genocide.
There was no universal will that evolved life. No intelligence other than the forces of nature. No God other than the laws of nature. The universe, the earth, and the life evolved because of the laws of the universe allow this possibility.
We, as human beings, intend something and then the action follows. This impression of free will is an effective model devised to explain the complex human behavior. Yet, however complex our behavior be, it still obeys the laws of nature. In this sense, there is no absolute free will. We still use the term “free will” in the limited sense as an effective model. The universe doesn’t need an intelligence or free will by which it intends to evolve. Nor does earth. However, we need “free will” in sense of an effective model to explain choices we make as humans.
No free will was needed for the origin of the life on this planet. However, we need “free will” to save life on this planet.